DES MOINES, Iowa — Community activists want to establish a community review board to provide independent oversight over the Des Moines Police Department, but Chief of Police Dana Wingert says the process already in place to review complaints “works very well.”
In response to the requests for a community review board, Wingert told Iowa Media, “We have a very thorough process for reviewing police complaints and there is a citizen component to that. We also have the city manager, the city legal department and the civil and human rights director also review all those complaints. We have a civil service component that is a very diverse commission made up of the citizens appointed by the mayor and affirmed by the city council. They have authority over discipline, hiring, firing and promotions. So there is already a citizen component in there. We have a very thorough investigative process. We have access to all the evidence. Our officers understand that process and I think that it works very well.”
The Community Alliance, which consists of the Iowa-Nebraska NAACP, ACLU of Iowa and Iowa CCI, says the current review process does not offer enough transparency. They want to establish a community review board to provide more accountability.
Russell Lovell, co-chair of the legal counsel for the Iowa-Nebraska NAACP, explained some of the responsibilities of a community review board. He said it would allow for a continued dialogue with police and community representatives about biased policing. Lovell said the board would collect and analyze data to facilitate a discussion of best police practices to prevent racial profiling.
The only other community review board in the state is located in Iowa City. It has been around since the late 1990s and is a committee of five people appointed by the city council. They investigate complaints from citizens who believe their rights were violated by police.
Here’s the complaint process of the Iowa City Community Police Review Board:
- Complaint filed through the committee
- Investigated by police; chief makes recommendation
- Committee makes separate recommendation
- Meeting to resolve any differences in recommendations
- Committee submits policy recommendations to city council and police department
Lovell says the Community Alliance will be taking examples from other boards like Iowa City’s when drafting their plan. It will include changing the way complaints are investigated against the police department.